Furthering the debate on whether genetically modifying foods (or even experimenting) is a good idea, the Agriculture Department has announced that an unapproved genetically modified wheat variety has been found in a farm in Oregon.
The New York Times reports that it's unknown if any of the genetically modified wheat has gotten into the food supply, but officials claim there is no threat to health. The wheat was a type developed by Monsanto from 1998 to 2005 in Oregon, where wheat was engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Monsanto dropped the project before it was approved for commercial use, The New York Times reports, but the FDA did review the wheat in 2004 and found no safety problems.
Unfortunately, the presence of GMO wheat could spark other countries to turn away or ban exports of American wheat, worth $8.1 billion in 2012. Almost half of the U.S. wheat crop heads abroad, and about 90 percent of Oregon's wheat crop is exported.
The wheat was discovered when a farmer tried to kill the crop, and a percentage of the crop failed to die; officials are now trying to see if more genetically engineered wheat is being grown elsewhere. Meanwhile, Monsanto claims in a statement that it is cooperating with the Agriculture Department, but is obviously downplaying the find. "There is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited," a press release said.